GEOGRAPHY 408a – Human and Social Applications in Geographical Information Science

This course is intended to provide you with time to develop and present a significant project in GIS. Lectures and a few exercises will be given during the beginning of the course while you develop your projects. Later you will be expected to meet regularly to work on your projects. You may work on one of the several projects presented by me or you may choose to develop one on your own. The project may incorporate work on your 490 paper or your thesis. However, you will be expected to do go beyond the work that you would otherwise do on those projects. In other words, you can’t get credit for the same project in two classes.


Students will gain a basic understanding of the preparation, analysis, and presentation spatial data related to humans and their activities through participation in a project.


Basis of Grading:

Lecture and lab will be combined for grading, and the items for grading are listed as follows accordingly

Grading items                                

Exam 1                                  25%

Exercises                               30%
Poster                                   35%
Presentation                          10%
Attendance                              5%
You are expected to be actively engaged in the class and with your group should you choose to work in one. You will need to exchange contact information with others and meet regularly with them.

The Project:
The main focus of this class is to give you an opportunity to bring together your GIS knowledge in order to tackle some substantial problem. Keep in mind that this Applications class has a human focus. Environmental and physical issues will be covered in 408b which you may take in addition to this course at some future date. You may work alone or in a small group. However, if you choose the team approach you will be required to evaluate each other’s contribution to the effort and so it is important that you delegate responsibilities and be able to meet and work together. At the end of the term you will explain your project through a poster and a brief presentation.

                You should think first about what interests you since it’s always more fun to discover something new in a subject you find engaging. Spend some time looking over the ESRI topical publications to get a sense of how some people are applying GIS to solve real problems. Once you have an idea of what you might want to do, let me know so that you can get some feedback on the feasibility of the project. Some questions I might ask are: Is data available and in a form relevant to the topic? Some data are only released in very generalized tables. Other data, such as student records or business sales, have issues of propriety and won’t be released. Nevertheless, there are many data sets now accessible over the web or you may have access to data not available to the general public. Keep in mind that by far the greatest amount of time and effort in a GIS project is spent on collecting and getting data into the system.

                Another question I would have would be is the problem clearly defined. Your question should be in a form that can be answered. For example: Does everyone have fair access to hospitals, doctors, lawyers, or shopping? Is the campus adequately covered by emergency blue-light stations? In event of an emergency, where are the students located on campus at different hours of the day? In what areas and at what times do robberies and burglaries occur? If you were to locate a new business (coffee house, gym, herb shop, computer store, hair or nail salon, legal office, or city government center) where would be the best place? Are some areas more prone to certain diseases than others? If the Los Angeles River were revived, who would be impacted by the plan? Do reported sex offenders live within a quarter mile of elementary schools? What areas of the city have the lowest percent of homeowners? What areas of the city pay the highest percentage of their incomes on rent? What areas of the city have the most equitable incomes between men and women? What parts of the city have the highest percentage of unwed mothers? How does the inclusion of census tracts with mostly institutionalized persons impact the results of a citywide population analysis?

                Some data sets like the Census have thousands of variables and so you need to define your question so that you don’t become overwhelmed by the possibilities. You want to find information and carry out analyses that answer your question to the satisfaction of another scientist. You also have a time limitation so I’ve often found that if a problem sounds rather simple, it is probably clear and will take about the right amount of time. However, your topic should demonstrate some depth of thought and analysis.

                Once you have settled on the topic you need to consult journals, magazines, newspapers, and even the internet to develop a deeper understanding of the topic and to see if other research may provide support or guidance. In fact, you might want to do this before actually preparing a data base. Develop a bibliography. You might choose to use your information to confirm other research or you may choose to follow a suggestion not investigated in other research. For example, New York and Chicago have been the subject of many studies so you might apply the same methodology to a study of Los Angeles or some other city. It is important that your work fit within the body of knowledge that may already exist on the topic. This will set this project apart from most other GIS projects you may have done since they typically do not do this. While one or more maps will be expected as part of your work, you also should be thinking about ways to summarize and compare your data and results. Try to focus on analyzing the problem.

                This term several speakers will be presenting examples of GIS analysis. Some will be offering data sets and may be willing to provide some guidance on topics that are important to them. You might consider working with them on a project since it will give you some contact with people outside academia and give you a chance to see how they are applying GIS.

Poster Preparation:

See: Fast Company, Now that we have your complete attention…

Creating Posters for Humanities and Social Sciences

Effective Poster Design

Steven Bell's PowerPoint and Presentation Skills Resource Page 

Lectures and Laboratory Exercises

Week                     Lecture topics                        Lab assignments

First Week             Intro, Applications of GIS.              Lab 1  Describing data with SPSS

Second Week         Lab                                              Lab 2  LA tract income data with SPSS 

Third Week            SPSS Analysis                               Lab 3  Analyzing data with SPSS                            

Fourth Week          Lab

Fifth Week             Introduction to the Census, PUMs Lab 4  Working with PUMS

Sixth Week            Lab

Seventh Week        Census Summary Files, ACS           Lab 5  The Census web site and Summary File Data

Eighth Week           Census Geography                         Lab 6  Working with TIGER and boundary files
Business, Spatial Analysis               Lab 7 Merchandising Strategy

Ninth Week            GIS in Emergency Planning              Lab   Emergency exercise
Sean Donovan speaker                   

Tenth Week           ESRI Trip                                                  

                     Spring Break

Eleventh Week       Marketing with GIS

                            Traci Milholen, Westfield                Lab 8 Selecting a Retail Site

Twelfth Week        Crime Analysis                               Lab  Crime Analysis
Warren Roberts speaker

Thirteenth Week                       Projects

Fourteenth Week                      Projects

Fifteenth Week                      Presentations


Bigman, D. and H. Fofack. 2000. Geographical targeting for poverty alleviation: methodology and application. Washington, D.C., World Bank.

Birkin, M, G.P Clarke and M Clarke. 1999. GIS for Business and Service Planning. In Geographic Information
Systems. Longley, P, M. Goodchild, D. Maguire, and D. Rhind (Eds). New York: John Wiley and Sons. Volt 2. pp.

Cromley, E. K. and S. McLafferty. 2002. GIS and public health. New York, Guilford Press.

Cutter, S. L., D. B. Richardson, et al. 2003. The geographical dimensions of terrorism. New York, Routledge.

Drezner, Z. and H. Hamacher. 2002. Facility location: applications and theory. Berlin; New York, Springer.

Gregory, I. N. 2003. A place in history: a guide to using GIS in historical research. Oxford, Oxbow.

Greene, Richard P. and James B. Pick. 2006. Exploring the Urban Community: A GIS Approach. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Gurnell, A. M. and D. R. Montgomery. 2000. Hydrological applications of GIS. Chichester; New York, John Wiley.

Landres, P. B., D. R. Spildie, et al. 2001. GIS applications to wilderness management potential uses and limitations. Fort Collins, CO, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station.

Laurini, R and D. Thompson. 1992. Fundamentals of Spatial Information Systems. Academic Press.

Longley, P. M. Goodchild, D. Maguire and D. Rhind. 2001. Geographic Information Systems and Science.
Chapter 2. A Gallery of Applications. John Wiley and Sons. pp. 32-57.

Melnick, A. L. 2002. Introduction to geographic information systems in public health. Gaithersburg, Md., Aspen Publishers.

Meyers, J. 1999. GIS in the Utilities. In Geographic Information Systems. Longley, P, M. Goodchild, D. Maguire,
and D. Rhind (Eds). New York: John Wiley and Sons. Volume 2. pp. 801-818.

Miller, H. and S. Shaw. 2001. Geographic Information Systems for Transportation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Neves, J.N. and G. Camara. 1999. Virtual Environments and GIS. In Geographic Information Systems. Longley,
P, M. Goodchild, D. Maguire, and D. Rhind (Eds). New York: John Wiley and Sons. Volume 1. pp. 557-565.

Peuquet, D. J. 1999. Time in GIS and Geographical Databases. In Geographic Information Systems. Longley, P, M.
Goodchild, D. Maguire, and D. Rhind (Eds). New York: John Wiley and Sons. Volume 1. Pp. 91-103.

Robinette, A. 1991. Land Management Applications of GIS in the state of Minnesota. In Geographical
Information SystemsMaguire, D., Goodchild, M. and D. Rhind. (Eds.) London: Longman Scientific and Technical.
pp. 275-283

Weibel, R. and M. Heller. Digital Terrain Modeling. In Geographical Information SystemsMaguire, D., Goodchild, M. and D. Rhind. (Eds.) London: Longman Scientific and Technical.
pp. 269-297.

White, M. 1991. Car Navigation Systems. In Geographical Information SystemsMaguire, D., Goodchild, M.
and D. Rhind. (Eds.) London: Longman Scientific and Technical. pp. 115-125 
Skidmore, A. 2002. Environmental modeling with GIS and remote sensing. London; New York, Taylor & Francis.

ESRI Publications:

*Amdahl, G. 2001. Disaster response: GIS for public safety. Redlands, Calif., ESRI Press.

*Boyles, D. 2002. GIS means business: volume two. Redlands, Calif., ESRI.

 Brail, Richard. 2001. Planning Support Systems. Redlands, Calif., ESRI Press.

*Breman, J. 2002. Marine geography: GIS for the oceans and seas. Redlands, Calif., ESRI Press.

*Convis, Charles. 2001. Conservation Geography: Case Studies in GIS Computer Mapping. Redlands, Calif., ESRI Press.

*ESRI. GIS in the Federal Government. Redlands, CA, ESRI Press.

*ESRI..2005. GIS in State Government. Redlands, CA, ESRI Press.

Falconer, A., J. Foresman, et al. 2002. A system for survival: GIS and sustainable development. Redlands, CA, ESRI Press.

*Greene, R. W. 2002. Confronting catastrophe: a GIS handbook. Redlands, Calif., ESRI Press.

*Greene, R. W. 2000. Open Access: GIS in e-Government Redlands, Calif., ESRI Press.

*Greene, R. W. 2000. GIS in Public Policy: Using Geographic Information for More Effective GovernmentRedlands, Calif., ESRI Press.

Godin, Lisa.  2001. GIS in Telecommunications. Redlands, Calif., ESRI Press.

*Hanna, Karen. 1999.  GIS for Landscape Architects. Redlands, Calif., ESRI Press.

*Harder, Christian. 1997. GIS Means Business. Redlands, Calif., ESRI Press

*Harder, Christian. 1998. Serving Maps on the Internet. Redlands, Calif., ESRI Press.

*Harder, Christian. 1999. Enterprise GIS for Energy Companies.Redlands, Calif., ESRI Press.

*Henry, Mark and L. Armstrong. 2004. Mapping the Future of America’s National Parks. Redlands, CA, ESRI Press.

*Herzog, David. 2003. Mapping the News. . Redlands, CA, ESRI Press.

*Knowles, A. K. 2002. Past time, past place: GIS for history. Redlands, Calif., ESRI Press.

Lang, Laura. 2000. GIS for Health Organizations. Redlands, Calif., ESRI Press.

Lang, Laura. 1999.  Transportation GIS. Redlands, Calif., ESRI Press.

*Lang, Laura. 1998. Managing Natural Resources with GIS. Redlands, Calif., ESRI Press.

*Maidment, D. R. 2002. Arc hydro: GIS for water resources. Redlands, Calif., ESRI Press.

*Mitchell, Andy. 1997. Zeroing In: Geographic Information Systems at Work in the Community. Redlands, Calif., ESRI Press.

*Peters, Alan and H. MacDonald. 2004. Unlocking the Census with GIS. Redlands, Calif., ESRI Press.

*O’Looney, John. 2000. Beyond Maps - GIS and Decision Making in Local Government. Redlands, Calif., ESRI Press.

*Thomas, Christopher and Milton Ospina. 2004. Measuring Up: The Business Case for GIS. Redlands, Calif., ESRI Press.

Tomlinson, Roger. 2003.  Thinking About GIS. Redlands, Calif., ESRI Press.

On-Line Resources:

Annotated Bibliographies of Geography 565 Students

Anselin, Luc, et al. Spatial Analysis of Crime

Bruce, Christopher W. A Thousand Words for a Picture. Is the overvaluation of GIS disrupting a critical balance in crime analysis?

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Canter, Phil. 2001. Using Geographic Information Systems for Problem Solving Research. Results of the First Invitational Advanced Crime Mapping Topics Symposium, Denver, CO. p89 -93.

Cartography and Geographic Information Science. Online or in Oviatt Library.

Geoinformtica. An e-journal of GIS.  (Enter through Oviatt Library)


GIS Tutorial in Marketing: Chapter 1 Environmental Scanning at Silver and Stones

Mapping LA: Crime L.A.

Ratcliffe, Jerry, Visualizing Crime Hot Spots and Making Sense of High-volume Crime


Mapping and Analysis for Public Safety

Stoe, Debra,  Carol R. Watkins, Jeffrey Kerr, Linda Rost, and Theodosia Craig. 2003. Using GIS to Map Crime Victim Services

Toppen, Fred and Hans Wapenaar 1994  GIS in Business: Tools for Marketing Analysis